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Uber Held Liable for Driver Negligence in Delayed Trip By Thane Consumer Forum

Rs. 20,000 awarded in damages to an advocate who missed her flight, holding Uber responsible for the cab driver’s negligence

The Thane Additional District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has directed Uber to pay Rs. 20,000 to an advocate for a delayed trip in 2018 that caused her to miss a flight to Chennai. 

Filed in 2021, the complaint filed by the advocate contended that Uber is responsible for the actions of its drivers. 

In a written reply to the complaint, Uber had initially argued that “it acts as an aggregator of transportation services” and is not responsible for the driver’s actions. “Driver partners [are] using the Uber app network as independent contractor [sic] and are individually responsible for any act committed by them,” it argued.

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Why it matters: The Commission ruled otherwise in its August 25th order, holding the platform liable for deficient services provided to a consumer. It noted that as per Uber’s terms and conditions, the complainant paid the trip fare to Uber, not to the driver provided to her. 

“It is proved that the third party contractor is appointed and managed by [the] opposite party for providing services to the complainant,” the order issued by S.A. Petkar, G.M. Kapse, and R.P. Nagre observed. “The complainant is a consumer of the opposite party [and its services] (..) Therefore, we come to the conclusion that the opposite party is liable for deficient service given by [the] opposite party [and] also liable for compensation.” 

Uber is to pay the complainant Rs. 10,000 each for both legal expenses and “mental agony” caused.

What happened on that Uber ride?

The advocate had to fly from Mumbai to Chennai for a “very crucial meeting” on June 12th, 2018. She booked an Uber at 3:29 pm for the 5:50 pm flight—her residence was 36 kilometres from Mumbai’s airport. An Uber booking was confirmed shortly after, although the order does not specify at which time. 

The driver did not appear “despite elapsation of considerable time”. After repeated calls, he appeared after 14 minutes. Despite the advocate’s request to start the journey, he only began the trip after finishing a phone call he was on.  

Then, the driver took a detour to a remote area to refuel his car, delaying the journey by another 15-20 minutes. “When before accepting any trip the cap [sic] service should be ready with Road [sic] worthy car along with necessary fuel,” the order observes.  

The advocate was eventually dropped at the airport at 5:23 pm, by which time she had missed her flight. She was forced to pay for another out-of-pocket. The Uber fare had also increased to Rs. 702.54, as compared to the Rs. 563 displayed at the time of booking—the distance covered according to the app was 46 kilometres. 

The advocate later lodged a complaint on Twitter with Uber, but received no response. “The opposite party [then] realized its mistakes, negligence and finally refunded an amount of fair [sic] differences from actual fair [sic] that is rupees 139/- in the Uber account of complainant on 20/06/2018,” recounts the order. 

The advocate then sent Uber a legal notice on an unspecified date. “The opposite party also sent rejoinder [sic] the opposite party sent reply [sic] but no use,” says the order. After this, the present complaint was filed on September 15th, 2021. 

What were the prayers of the complaint?

The complaint prayed that:

  • Uber pay Rs. 2,539 towards the costs of the second flight;
  • Uber pay Rs. 2 lakh towards the “mental agony, torture and physical harassment caused”;
  • Uber pay Rs. 1 lakh towards “compensation for loss of opportunity and work being affected”;
  • Uber pay Rs. 75,000 for legal expenses;
  • Uber pay Rs. 1 lakh towards wasting the complainant’s “precious time and energy”.

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I'm interested in stories that explore how countries use the law to govern technology—and what this tells us about how they perceive tech and its impacts on society. To chat, for feedback, or to leave a tip: aarathi@medianama.com

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